LumberJocks

Profession or Hobby

  • Advertise with us

« back to Sweating for Bucks Through Woodworking forum

Forum topic by MJClark posted 09-27-2018 01:15 PM 1349 views 0 times favorited 25 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View MJClark's profile

MJClark

36 posts in 278 days


09-27-2018 01:15 PM

Topic tags/keywords: profession career woodworking hobby woodworker

Last night I started reading the book Handcrafted which talked about how Clint Harp walked away from a high paying job in medical sales to become a professional furniture builder… and was nearing his last dime when he met Chip Gains at a gas pump.

This is a shift that I have wanted to do for quite a while now but I question if it is something that is financially possible. Right now I have a small shop setup in my garage and I have sold some of my projects to neighbors. Most of them were just smaller furniture items such as tables, night stands and such. However a few people have told me that I should shift career gears pointing out that most of the furniture in my house is stuff that I have built.

As it is one thing that I am going to do is set up a website and contact a few antique & replica stores in the area to see about consignment options, but thus far I think it will be more of a paying hobby than a profession. But I would love for this to change.

So I ask, is woodworking your full-time profession or a hobby? If it is your full time gig, how did you get started, did you have a full time job doing something else when you got started, and what are the biggest suggestions for someone who wants to do this as a full time profession?


25 replies so far

View mahdee's profile

mahdee

4290 posts in 2161 days


#1 posted 09-27-2018 02:09 PM

It has been a hobby for me for 30+ years. Actually, it has been a therapy because I make things that I am inspired by. If I turn that to a full time profession, it will become “work”. I have considered turning this skill to work but in order to do that I may end up having to do production which I consider redundant work (factory job). I have a friend that has a CNC machine and makes pistol grips for various firearm companies. He is content with it and makes enough money between it and being a preacher. Unless you become a name in the business for making and selling high end furniture, production is the only way to go. Anyways, for me, having to meet deadlines and replicating things is just a big turn off but if it turns you on, do all the analytics you need to become successful.

-- earthartandfoods.com

View CWWoodworking's profile (online now)

CWWoodworking

492 posts in 572 days


#2 posted 09-27-2018 02:18 PM

I have done basically what you are talking about. about 2 years in. Its been pretty rough, but starting to see the light. I made a very big mistake in that I tried to do it while building a house. Please dont attempt this, trust me.

Looking back now, the first question you need to ask is who is your target customer and is there enough demand? Look at the population around you. My whole county is less that 30,000. I would have a hard time selling to individuals just based off of numbers. and it takes years to build up a reputation to reach further out.

Luckily, I realized this early on and went wholesale only. No commision. The margins are more narrow, but the flow of work is consistent. The thing a lot of people dont realize is that nice furniture stores can get top dollar for stuff. You just starting out are going to have a hard time demanding top dollar because your new. And a lot of people think you should be cheaper than furniture stores in a wierd way.

Websites are good, but for me, the best thing I did was a printed catalog. Expensive, but it produced more sales than a website.

Gotta go 10:00 break is over. Might post later. Feel free to ask questions.

View DS's profile

DS

3168 posts in 2814 days


#3 posted 09-27-2018 02:19 PM

For me, woodworking is both a hobby and a profession.
I took an intro to industrial arts class in 8th grade and loved it. All through High School I took woodworking classes and entered several competitions with my projects.

I worked in a cabinet shop as an entry level sawyer while going to Engineering school for Electronics.
Once I got my degree I worked 12 years in the Aerospace industry specializing in Embedded Controls and Space Telemetry and Satellite Systems.

One day a colleague asked what I would do if I didn’t need the money – what was I passionate about?
I knew the answer and it was woodworking.

All I had to do was to figure out how to marry my embedded control skills with my woodworking passion.
The answer was CNC woodworking. I’ve been doing it ever since.

There is the professional shop where I work and there is my home shop where I play.
Life is good for now.

-- "Hard work is not defined by the difficulty of the task as much as a person's desire to perform it.", DS251

View Aj2's profile

Aj2

2280 posts in 2191 days


#4 posted 09-27-2018 03:35 PM

To make a pile of money building furniture for a living you’ll need to start with a pile of money roughly twice the size.
Behind every great furniture maker is a wife with a good job.
Seriously don’t quit your job

-- Aj

View CWWoodworking's profile (online now)

CWWoodworking

492 posts in 572 days


#5 posted 09-27-2018 03:56 PM



If I turn that to a full time profession, it will become “work”. I have considered turning this skill to work but in order to do that I may end up having to do production which I consider redundant work (factory job).

- mahdee

This is 100% real. Some things I used to find joy in, are now just an ends to a mean. Not everything, just somethings.(sanding ugh)

View DrDirt's profile

DrDirt

4558 posts in 4136 days


#6 posted 09-27-2018 05:33 PM



To make a pile of money building furniture for a living you ll need to start with a pile of money roughly twice the size.
Behind every great furniture maker is a wife with a good job.
Seriously don t quit your job

- Aj2


+100
a private ACA compliant plan through Blue Cross here (with 3 kids) is 22K/year.
You have to have a sugar momma/daddy or it is nearly impossible to run a one man shop and make a living of only that.

Even many of the well known folks you see in Fine Woodworking, have teaching gigs and do more than make one-off furniture pieces.

-- “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” Mark Twain

View oldnovice's profile

oldnovice

7485 posts in 3761 days


#7 posted 09-27-2018 05:51 PM

Woodworking is one of my hobbies as I also dabble in electronics/control systems/programming (still after 40+ years in that profession).
I started playing around with electronics when I was 12 and woodworking when I was 15 (my Dad didn’t know that I was using his table saw until I forgot to unplug it once).

-- "I never met a board I didn't like!"

View pottz's profile

pottz

5309 posts in 1378 days


#8 posted 09-27-2018 05:59 PM

ditto to all,i have been doing this as a hobby most all my life and would love to do what you want to but the stuff ive sold to neighbors or friends would never pay the bills.i made a maloof rocker my neighbor really wanted but when i said 4000 he quickly changed his mind.everyone wants a cheap deal because its home made! as drdirt said the insurance alone will wipe you out.so my plan is get to retirement and then do it for supplemental income.good luck with whatever way you go,but as they keep your day job.

-- sawdust the bigger the pile the bigger my smile-larry,so cal.

View JCamp's profile

JCamp

981 posts in 944 days


#9 posted 09-27-2018 06:00 PM

To me it’s a hobby. I tend to do more construction type stuff any more cause that’s what the house needs but when I started in middle school I did a lot of clocks and scroll saw work on stuff. It was cool but took forever and all I had money for was pine and got sick of working with it. I work to slow to ever make a living doing it but have bounced around the idea of doing general contract work. For now tho my day job, as aggravating as it is, pays to much for me to just walk away

-- Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with all thy might

View DS's profile

DS

3168 posts in 2814 days


#10 posted 09-27-2018 08:09 PM

During the economic downturn after the housing crash, I found myself “Involuntarily Self-Employed”.
I managed to replace my income (and more) working full-time from my home garage shop for 11 months before finding gainful employment again.

For me, it is totally doable, but, when I work for myself, my boss is a slave driver!
So, I find it more tolerable to work for other companies and help them become more successful.

I can still build the occasional commission from home and get well paid for it.
Or, I can just as easily go to the garage and have fun trying things I’ve dreamt about doing in wood.

“Do the work you love and you will never work another day in your life.” (Not exactly sure who I’m quoting with that one – it’s not mine)

BTW: Space systems are all “glamour on the outside”, but, agonizingly BORING on the inside – just FYI, in case any of you all were wondering.

-- "Hard work is not defined by the difficulty of the task as much as a person's desire to perform it.", DS251

View WoodSkills's profile

WoodSkills

2 posts in 269 days


#11 posted 09-28-2018 02:48 AM

Went through this dilemma many years ago. Formerly a hi-tech person with close to 3 decades in that field, I got tired of constantly updating my knowledge of software technology to simply do my job(s). So I sought a career that can be done with traditional tools and little to no technology. After taking some evening course in woodworking, fell in love with it. Was so proud of those first pieces I ever made! Still have the very first one here, a dovetailed planter. so started a part-time woodworking business along the way. I recommend to do this first before taking the plunge. The part-time gig confirmed that I wanted to make furniture full-time one day. The story goes on. Today I am a full-time furniture maker. BTW, wrote about the journey in my book “From Hi-Tech to Lo-Tech: A Woodworker’s Journey”. It can be done, you have to enjoy the process though as difficult and discouraging as it might get!

Norman
WOODSKILLS

-- Norman, Canada http://www.woodskills.com

View NormG's profile

NormG

6435 posts in 3397 days


#12 posted 09-28-2018 02:53 AM

Very much a hobby

-- Norman - I never never make a mistake, I just change the design.

View CWWoodworking's profile (online now)

CWWoodworking

492 posts in 572 days


#13 posted 09-28-2018 03:01 AM

Norman, congrats on “making” it. I peaked at you website, nice.

Honest question, what is your main source of income? Is it furniture or books or a little of both? Whatever your Answer, it’s cool. I can barely build stuff, much less writing a book!

View lumbering_on's profile

lumbering_on

578 posts in 883 days


#14 posted 09-28-2018 03:19 AM

I’m another one of those hobbyists who prefers to keep it a hobby. I’m also an engineer, and in a former life I was an accountant. I used to enjoy business, then accounting killed that. I also used to spend hours on end coding and hacking around networks. Becoming a software engineer turned network/simulations engineer has now killed that joy.

So I’m not about to kill my love of woodworking by trying to make a living off of it.

View WoodenDreams's profile

WoodenDreams

605 posts in 304 days


#15 posted 09-28-2018 03:52 AM

For most woodworkers this won’t pay to keep the lights on. I was fortunate. I’ve been self employed for 20 yrs, Retired and started a woodshop as a hobby, keeping quality in mind. Turned into a overblown hobby, and January of 2017 turned it into a business. Like most woodworkers I build to order. My distinction is I use NO plywood or MDF board, solid wood only. Also I use NO nails, screws or staples, except to fasten hinges or hardware. I build primarily Hope, Cedar, and Toy Chests, Cremation Urns, also do restoration and specialty projects. I have a customer wish list form, then I present a order form once they pull the trigger and order. I get 20% down, and give a 5% discount if paid in full at time of order. I paid $250 to have my pick up lettered, got business cards, and put together a brochure of past work. I got a booth at 3 craft shows, Advertise in one of the Senior Centers Newspaper, and in a Tidbit Newsletter that’s seen at restaurants and Medical centers. I got a souvenir shop displaying a chest and taking orders, I ship direct to their customers. I also supply some funeral homes with urns. I have prepaid orders of 2 Hope Chests, 2 Cedar Chests, 8 urns, and a waiting list of customers. I also have 6 restoration projects in my possession from customers. I STARTED TO GET BURNED OUT. So I backed of my hours to 20 hrs per week to get my life back. I now have and tell my customers they have to go on a 4 to 5 month waiting list (except the funeral homes). The customers that want quality and not box store items will wait in most cases. Don’t be afraid to turn down work if it won’t meet your standards. I stay away from consignment places, because they charge 40 to 50% of selling price. Try to keep it fun and maintain high quality. There is a market for quality workmanship. Starting out you do need a source of income from a job, part or full time, or other like I had.

showing 1 through 15 of 25 replies

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics

HomeRefurbers.com